Home June 2023 Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New

Traditional events adapt to societal changes.

    There is nothing new about rites of passage. Bar and bas mitzvahs, weddings and similar celebrations of life’s turning points trace their origins back millennia, and many of the customs and rituals with which they are marked have been repeated, generation by generation, for centuries. That is not to say, however, that fads and fashions do not influence today’s simchas—they do, along with some trends that seem to have become firmly entrenched. Of these, environmental consciousness is probably the strongest. “A more sustainable wedding is not only firmly in, but it’s a trend that’s here to stay,” according to Vogue Magazine’s Elise Taylor.
    Many simcha celebrants are cutting back on consumption from the beginning by going paperless, said Jenny McAnn of Sunflower & Seashell Event Co. in Atlantic Highlands. When people opt for printed invitations, they usually want elaborately decorated styles that are neither recycled nor recyclable afterwards, but, increasingly, invitations and responses are electronic.
    Particularly for weddings, rentals are replacing purchases at the ceremony itself. Gemachs that lend out necessities for indigent brides have been around as long as the American Jewish community. Now, however, their appeal is at least as great to brides who want to reduce, reuse and recycle. Shelly Cohen’s Bridal Boutique in West Long Branch is one of the few located in New Jersey. Some located in New York have expanded their offerings well beyond gowns to accessories and beyond the bride to other members of the families and wedding party.
    “Renting is definitely trending,” agreed Patrick Moroney of Monmouth Wedding Rentals in Keyport, which supplies structures such as arches and chuppas, from lucite to copper to dark cedar. Natural-looking white birch is the most popular.
    Flowers are among the most obvious and ephemeral of extravagances, and they are being replaced or repurposed in more environmentally conscious ceremonies. Some people used dried flowers or artificial flowers made from natural materials, such as sola wood, produced from a sustainably farmed tropical plant. Flowers can also be reused as the simcha progresses. Ms. McAnn will reform bouquets from the flowers used in the ceremony and wrap them in paper for people to take home or distribute individual stems among bud vases to be grouped as centerpieces and then distributed as favors.
    Throwing rice at the end of a wedding ceremony has been frowned upon almost as long as it has been around. Bubbles and biodegradable confetti are now more commonly used instead. At Ms. McAnn’s own wedding, she set up a petal bar consisting of the dried petals from every flower her husband had ever given her. Guests filled cones made of antique music paper with the petals to throw at the end of the ceremony—a spectacular and sustainable climax for those capable of extraordinary forethought to plan.
    In the event that these environmentally conscious measures are not enough, there is always the minimony. Applicable more to a wedding than to other simchas, the minimony became popular during the pandemic when large planned weddings could not go ahead. While the reception was put on hold for months or longer, the actual wedding ceremony was held on the originally scheduled date with a minimum of socially distanced attendees. The pandemic emergency may be over, but minimonies are a continuing trend that avoids much of the consumption and expense of a large ceremony.
    Receptions are another opportunity to make an effort on behalf of the planet. “People are very desperate to celebrate life,” said Clara Tsipertal of Clara’s Creations in Englishtown, “but at the same time they are more laid back.” Gatherings are smaller and often held at home, especially in the summer. Place cards and favors are increasingly being omitted or replaced by lottery tickets or seed papers, which are biodegradable papers impregnated with seeds. Rather than seeds in packets, which must be extracted and sown, the entire seed paper is planted as is.  Rentals of linens, dishes and flatware are replacing purchased paper and plastic, and disposable dishes and flatware made from bamboo can be composted rather than sent to a landfill.
    Wedding accoutrements may be a bellwether, but a more reliable indicator of a trend’s staying power is what is happening at bar and bas mitzvahs. These celebrants are the future, and it is green.

Sue Kleinberg is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.



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